American Express is bringing all its IT and technology in-house as part of its digital transformation, but struggling to find women to take up new roles in the UK.
American Express is keen to shed its label as a credit card company, and is investing heavily to compete with Apple in the technology stakes.
“We’re changing, from contactless to the way that we communicate with our customers – we are trying to compete with Apple. The climate is changing and the industry is changing” Winsome Lunn, recruitment manager for EMEA at American Express told ComputerworldUK.
But like most companies looking to hire in the technology space, it is struggling to bring women into the workplace.
Lunn said: “It is tough to get software developers in general and to raise awareness that American Express is a tech company, and then setting the women agenda."
The firm arranged UK-based focus groups followed by networking events to get as many women as possible applying for the large number of roles ranging from software developers to architects in its Brighton hub.
But Lunn admitted that despite a high number of registrations, the turnouts have been small. The focus group attracted nine women, across all ages and qualification levels. But the event did reveal that branding was the firm's major barrier to hiring tech staff generally, let alone women.
“We have got a new landing page on our website. We are doing a lot of branding and marketing and campaigns we hope will go viral.
“I guess the challenge we have as a global brand is that we have US centric campaigns. We are trying to look at how to make it more specific for the UK.”
Many other large organisations are struggling to bring women into their technology departments, it was revealed at the techUK ‘Challenging industry’ recruitment seminar this morning in Chancery Lane.
Tracey Harrison, UK technology growth platform delivery lead at Accenture, said: “We just recruited 41 apprentices and it was like pulling teeth to get any females through and we ended up with 12 but the amount of work just getting twelve in was really painful.”
Organisations including IBM, CGI and governement backed e-skills UK and techUK discussed the best way to get a better gender balance across junior and senior level roles.
“Tech is going backwards”
Alison Downie, a partner who focuses on both tech and employee and discrimination law at Goodman Derrick LLP said despite the work companies are doing to encourage female representation, the competition in the jobs market has put diversity on a backfoot.
She said: “I personally think it has gone backwards. Giving information is power within an organisation. Progress has gone backwards partly because there is a lot more competition for jobs and the technology industry is almost worst in that respect. Networking is coming back in and particularly amongst men, which is very serious.
“Any time there is a project going on share information about that very carefully...Those personal networks that I have seen across the board developing in a very serious way should be fought against.
“That’s one way of doing it – if you can do that you are assisting women who are there already or trying to get in in their careers.”
The next seminar will discuss pay equality and take place on the 4 November.
Key ways to help attract women to roles
Change wording to encourage those who may not be confident that they have all the skills that are detailed. Use more nurturing verbs and give the opportunity for the right candidate to look back and provide career progression for a junior at some point in the future.
Use both social and internal networks to reach potential talent outside of the company and invite to networking events.
Finding a female role model
Some organisations simply do not have a technical role model to showcase, and in this case, organisations found that asking someone from another organisation to make an appearance can help. If all else fails call the elephant in the room, or find a male colleague who is happy to discuss the lack of female representation, but how the company want to change this.
For technical interviews ensure interviewees are prepped for dealing with different types of people. Often one female interviewee can be helpful.
Accenture use a female-centric CRM to send job offers and promotion of female success stories through targeted newsletters.
techUK have a Women in Tech Programme aligned to the European e-Skills for Jobs project, which aims to raise awareness of the e-skills gap across Europe - a gap it believes can be closed significantly by attracting and recruiting more women into the tech sector.